CRA completed an architectural survey for Buckeye Wind, LLC, which proposes to construct a wind-powered electric generating facility consisting of 100 turbines in Champaign County, Ohio. The cultural resources investigation for the project was completed to satisfy two regulatory authorities – Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Ohio Administrative Code Chapter 4906-17-08 (D) for the Ohio Power Siting Board. Based on Ohio Power Siting Board directives and input from the Ohio Historic Preservation Office, a project-specific work plan was developed for an architectural survey of the five-mile viewshed surrounding the proposed turbine locations.
Following consultation with the Ohio Historic Preservation Office, it was determined that, considering the large geographical area involved and the nature of the proposed undertaking, evaluating National Register of Historic Places eligibility and potential effects of the proposed project on individual properties was not the goal of the survey. Unlike many undertakings, wind farms have the potential to introduce changes to an expansive landscape rather than individual historic properties. Thus, the goal of the survey was to gain a general understanding of the character of the survey area’s historic landscape and to identify the character defining property types that contribute to the qualities that make this historic landscape unique. Public participation was also an important part of this survey. Interested parties were identified and information was requested concerning what they felt was significant about the historic landscape, and how they thought the proposed project might affect those qualities. Once the general character of the historic landscape was determined, and the character-defining property types were identified, the potential effect of the proposed project was evaluated at the landscape level.
The project was initiated by conducting a records review and archival research designed to develop a historic context of the survey area. Following the development of a preliminary context, a field survey was conducted. During the survey, individual properties and districts were documented to determine the general character of the historic landscape and identify character-defining property types. The field survey documented 1,475 individual properties located in the rural areas and crossroads communities of the survey area, and an additional 44 blocks in Mechanicsburg and 283 blocks in Urbana were assessed. Based on the archival research, field survey, and public involvement, it was determined that the agricultural heritage of the survey area is what makes the historic landscape unique, and that historic farmsteads and farmhouses, one-room schoolhouses, churches, cemeteries, and crossroads communities are character-defining property types that contribute to one’s appreciation of the area’s historic landscape.
The proposed wind turbines, sited in the county’s agricultural fields, represent a new land use that allows local farmers to continue to cultivate their fields while also bringing in additional income. By providing economic support to family farms, the wind farm will encourage the continuation of an agricultural way of life in Champaign County, and in many cases, may contribute to the preservation of character-defining historic resources reflecting this rural heritage. At the same time, the number and size of the proposed turbines could affect the perception of the traditional rural historic landscape, changing important qualities of the setting in which many of the character-defining historic property types are located. Based on the nature of the proposed project, avoidance or minimization of these indirect impacts is impractical. Consequently, creative mitigation measures were recommended in order to promote the continued preservation and meaningfulness of the survey area’s rural history.